Cataract surgery is commonly thought to be a cure-all. Those who have tried it enthuse about how it removes annoying visual fog and nighttime driving glare, enhances reading clarity, and restores their eyesight to 100% of what it was before their cataracts developed — or even better.
And it’s practically completely correct.
According to Christopher Starr, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and associate professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, the United States conducts approximately 4 million cataract procedures each year, which are “overwhelmingly beneficial.” According to one study, 99.5 percent of 221,000 cataract surgery patients had no major complications. “This is true cataract surgery…and every procedure has certain risks,” Starr warns.
Patients should be told about both common and rare postoperative complications that may occur. With early treatment, the majority of problems may be prevented.
Getting ready for surgery
According to Ravi Goel, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the AAO and ophthalmologist at Regional Eye Associates in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, preoperative examinations should be undertaken. He emphasizes that any pre-existing disorders, such as diabetes, retinopathy, macular degeneration, or glaucoma, are an important part of your pre-operative evaluation and discussion. Furthermore, if you are severely nearsighted, have hyperopia, or have pathological myopia, these variables should be investigated, according to Goel.
To ensure that you are properly prepared, follow your physician’s pre-surgery instructions to the letter. This might include getting any prescription medicines you’ll need after surgery.
Cataract surgery takes around 20 minutes and is painless since it is done under local anesthesia. To help with the healing process, a prophylactic antibiotic and maybe pressure-lowering drops or ointment will be applied to your eye, and a patch or shield will be put over the eye, according to Goel.
Have the person driving you home after cataract surgery listen to any further instructions you are given, just in case you are a bit fatigued and miss anything.
Adverse consequences that are common
According to Starr, there will be certain difficulties associated with cataract surgery. They’ll be gone in a day or two. You may have one or more of the mild, transitory symptoms listed below:
- Blurred vision
- Itchy eyes
- Redness in the whites of the eyes
- Dryness, irritation, or a grittiness in the eyes
- Swelling in or around the eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Visual halo effect
Rehydrate, eat, and rest when you arrive home. The day after cataract surgery, you’ll see your doctor to have the patch or shield removed from your eye and to be checked for any issues.
If you have severe pain, a headache, or acute pressure around your eye, contact your doctor right once.
Symptoms to be concerned about
“The sooner we treat any potential postoperative complications, the better,” Starr says. Experts think that early action may nearly completely eliminate any problem.
Contact your doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms, which are exceedingly unusual:
- Sudden loss of vision
- Persistent redness in or around the eye
- Persistent sensitivity to light
- Persistent discharge from the eye
- Persistent discomfort • Fever, nausea, or vomiting
- Sudden increase in floaters or flashing lights
It’s important to note that if complications arise after cataract surgery, the majority of them may be resolved promptly with medication or an additional procedure.
The following are some of the conceivable (and, once again, infrequent) issues:
Eye inflammation is a common ailment. If you previously had huge or thick cataracts, this is more likely to occur. Your vision is still foggy or fuzzy. Anti-inflammatory eye drugs are often used to treat this illness, and they may considerably decrease swelling in a matter of days or weeks.
Light sensitivity is a term used to describe a person’s sensitivity to light
Excessive light sensitivity might be an indication of infection or iritis (iris inflammation), which can be treated with steroid eye drops if it continues. A few months of wearing sunglasses may be advantageous to certain individuals.
When the eye’s gel separates from the retina, photopsia, or the perception of flashes of light or floaters, develops. This is a common occurrence, and the symptoms usually go away within a few months. In extreme cases, a vitrectomy (gel replacement) may be required to remove the floating cells.
Macula edema is a condition in which the macula becomes swollen.
An accumulation of fluid in the macula, the central retina in the back of the eye, causes this. It’s curable with medication and dietary modifications, but it may take months to get well. Your doctor must keep a careful eye on you.
Ptosis, also known as drooping eyelid, is a condition in which a person’s eyelid droops as a consequence of surgery stress and heals within a few days or weeks. Cataract surgery is only required in rare cases.
The intraocular lens is dislocated.
If the new (intraocular) lens implant is not correctly put in the eye’s capsular bag, which holds it, or if it becomes displaced, this might happen. Double vision or even seeing the lens’ edge are possible symptoms. Although this is a rare occurrence, timely surgery to correct it is necessary for a healthy result. (Studies show that this happens in less than 1% of patients.)
Following cataract surgery, infection in the interocular region. Endophthalmitis may develop even though all precautions have been taken to ensure that your operation is completely clean, as Starr explains. This infection is very hazardous and should be treated with antibiotics as soon as possible.
Opacification of the posterior capsule (PCO) occurs when the back of the lens capsular bag becomes obscured. This is not the case, despite the fact that it is often referred to as a second cataract. A cataract does not recur once it has been removed. In certain cases, a PCO might develop if a few of the old cataract cells are not removed during surgery. (Studies show that this happens in 11.8 percent of patients a year after cataract surgery, 20.7 percent three years later, and 28.4 percent five years later.) A simple YAG laser procedure done in the comfort of your doctor’s office may erase this haze. Then, as directed, anti-inflammatory eye drops should be used.
Retina that has been ripped or separated from the rest of the eye. The retina separates from the back of the eye, which causes this condition, which is more frequent in younger individuals. A curtain or shadow blocking your vision, the formation of new floaters, or flashes of light are all symptoms of this disease. Immediate surgery to mend the tear or reattach the retina is essential to restore vision.
Bottom line: While cataract surgery has a low risk and a high return, eliminating even the slightest chance of problems by carefully choosing a qualified eye surgeon, following instructions, and reporting any signs of a potential problem will ensure the best possible result.